Thursday, November 15, 2012

Oil Companies: The Standard Oil Company - John Rockefeller and Ida Tarbell



What was the Standard Oil Company?  Standard Oil was established in 1870, became the largest oil refiner in the world, and was broken up for anti-trust reasons by the Supreme Court in 1911.  John D. Rockefeller was the founder and chairman of the company, and with his control and ownership became the richest man in  the world.

Standard Oil and John Rockefeller became famous, and in some quarters infamous, for the firm's and its chairman's voracious appetite for its competition.  Rockefeller managed to undercut, weaken, and then find ways to control, buy-out, or destroy competition.  These behaviors would ultimately stimulate the work of muckraking journalists, and lead to anti-trust litigation that would break up the firm.  

The first great American investigative journalist, Ida Tarbell, would essentially establish the craft of investigative journalism through her work on the case of Standard Oil.  

John D. Rockefeller
1839-1937

For all the approbation cast upon Mr. Rockefeller for his aggressive business practices, Rockefeller was one of the greatest philanthropists in history and his legacy still benefits the world today.  Rockefeller lived a long time: 98 years.  He retired from business while still in his sixties, giving him more than 30 years to practice and structure formal philanthropy.  As one of the richest men in history, combined with his extended "retirement", John Rockefeller ultimately became a boon to the pursuit of the arts and sciences in the United States and throughout the world.

Ida Tarbell
1857-1944


Though published as a book, Tarbell's original work on Standard Oil appeared in a magazine called McClures, serialized in 19 parts.  McClures was quite popular in turn of the century United States, and distinguished itself by publishing a series of muckraking articles, including Ray Baker's investigation of United States Steel.


The famous 1904 Standard Oil octopus with a grip on everything within its reach, including the Congress, and with its eyes on its next target, the White House.

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